ERA Urges FEI Riders to Oppose 21 Penalty Rule

Photo courtesy of ERA International Photo courtesy of ERA International

The International Eventing Riders Association (ERA International) is urging all FEI riders around the world to verbally oppose Article 548.1 in the 2015 FEI Eventing Rulebook, which gives an automatic, non-appealable 21 penalties when a frangible fence is broken on cross country.

The 21 penalties can only be removed if the rider can prove a “clear failure of the mechanism”; the rule currently covers MIM clips, frangible pins and reverse pinned fences, all of which are now widely used by FEI course designers around the world.

“This has effectively removed the ground jury of an FEI event from the decision making process as to whether it was considered that the collapse of the ‘frangible obstacle/device’ saved the horse from falling,” Bruce Haskell, ERA International president, said in a statement released today.

ERA International has been speaking out against this rule since it first appeared in the new rulebook in December, and the FEI Eventing Committee has called a meeting on March 10 to discuss these concerns.

ERA International outlines eight key reasons why the organization believes the rule should be opposed. Click here to read all eight reasons in full, and read on for a summary:

1. Safety: As rotational falls continue to be a major cause of serious injury or fatalities in the sport, it’s critical to support the use of frangible safety systems, which have been proven to reduce these types of falls.

2: Design: “Many top cross country course designers have already commented ‘off record’ that they are less likely to use ‘deformable devices,’” Bruce said. “Designers have said that they will now seriously consider using fewer devices based on the possible effect a breakage has on the outcome of a competition.”

3: Integrity: Frangible pins can be triggered under a variety of different circumstances, and the “opinion of knowledgeable officials should be able to be used to determine if the action was deliberate, dangerous or accidental,” Bruce said.

4. Responsibility: Requiring riders to prove an “unexpected mechanical failure” of a safety device means the results of FEI events could be decided in a “a court or testing facility,” as opposed to at the event.

5. Consistency: “At present, a horse can crash through a cross country jump that is not designed to ‘deform,’ damaging that cross country jump in such a way that it will need repair, but potentially no penalties will be awarded,” Bruce said. “However, if a horse damages a cross country jump that is designed to deform with impact, then 21 penalties will be awarded.”

6. Regulatory: Strengthening, clarifying and consistently using the FEI’s system for verbal warnings, yellow cards and red cards will combat dangerous riding. In addition to developing an improved disciplinary procedure, ERA International supports awarding 25 penalties if the ground jury and jump judge determine a deformable fence collapsed due to dangerous riding.

7. Horse Welfare: “The impact of 21 penalties to the qualification of riders and horses by fully having to repeat that level of event goes against the horse’s welfare, which is always considered paramount,” Bruce said.

8. Ethos: The intent of cross country is to “get between the red and white flags of a cross country jump at the first attempt and not to leave the ‘rails up’ in doing so,” Bruce said. “To change the way riders think about the potential penalty from the placement of a deformable device will change the nature of how athletes ride cross country to the fundamental detriment of our sport.”

Eventing Nation stands behind ERA International’s interpretation of how the frangible penalty rule could negatively impact eventing worldwide.

We encourage all FEI riders in the U.S., Canada and beyond to voice your opposition to by filling out the form at the bottom of this link no later than March 10, or by sending your full name, email address, the date and current FEI number to [email protected].

What do you think of the FEI’s frangible penalty rule, EN? Do you support it or oppose it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

[Frangible Fence Rule Changed By FEI]